Introduction to Non-Duality

Being is, non-being is not!

Our current world culture is based on a simple belief. This belief is that there are many individual subjects or consciousnesses perceiving the objects and phenomena that we call the universe. In this belief the world out there is given independent existence from the separate conscious entities who perceive it.

So why call it a belief? In no way is it meant to negate or look down on science. Science provides us with the insights and models that are invaluable for our society. It can however not be ignored that there has never been and will never be a person that can find this world or universe independently from his or her consciousness! It is a belief because we ignore a fundamental property of experience and that is that we, all of us, never ever actually experience the universe directly. We only experience perceptions of it. A perception is perceived by the subject of perception and what is perceived is the object of perception. The subject must know (be aware of) the experience otherwise there would be no perception. The knower of experience is that what we call “I”. I see, I hear, I feel, I think, etc. With some investigation into the nature of our experience we find that everything we experience appears in our consciousness. It is impossible for us to perceive anything outside of it. The independent existence of matter from consciousness is indeed a simple belief and not a fact. Moreover this belief does not correspond well with our experience if we investigate it. Despite this, it is fundamentally underlying and permeating our current world culture and all of our scientific endeavor.

“But what about the fact that we all agree on what we perceive of the world out there, does not that indicate that the universe has an independent existence?”. It does only indicate that the universe has existence independent of mind but not of consciousness. What we call the universe can be defined as all objects and phenomena that we agree on, the so-called intersubjective agreement. Our perceptions of thoughts and bodily sensations are not part of the intersubjective agreement. Thoughts and bodily sensations do not have existence independent from mind. In fact after some investigation it becomes clear that the mind itself is an object that is perceived in and by consciousness. The only thing we can be absolutely sure of, based on our experience alone, is that, regardless of what it is made off, the universe has independent existence from all minds. What we can not be sure of is that the universe has independent existence from consciousness because it is utterly impossible to experience the universe directly without consciousness. This makes it impossible to prove and clearly establishes the fact that it is a belief rather than a fact.

An other (but related) belief that is deeply rooted in our current world culture, is the belief that consciousness in each and every one of us is an emergent property of the mind and shares the limits of that mind and the body that hosts it. This is the idea that what we call “I” is born into the world as a separate conscious entity sharing the limits of the body in space and time. This belief to be a separate limited entity destined to die is the root cause of all psychological and emotional suffering in the world!

But what is the substantiating evidence for this belief? If we can not even prove that the universe has independent existence from consciousness where did the idea come from that consciousness could be limited by the lifespan of a body which is only an infinitesimal part of the universe as a whole? Simply, from the fact that we are never encouraged, in our current world culture, to investigate the nature of perception and consciousness, causing us to wrongly identify consciousness with mind and, of course, from our experience that body-minds do in fact die.

Investigation of our own experience reveals that thoughts, the body and the universe appear in consciousness and not the other way around. Combined with the fact that we can not proof that the universe has independent existence from consciousness it would have been far more intuitive to contemplate a rather astonishing (to us, now) alternative: If we all agree on our perception of the universe and, although the universe has independent existence from mind, it can never be proven that it has independent existence from consciousness, it may well be true that consciousness is universal and not individual! In fact, if we define consciousness as the reality that perceives and if it is true that the universe does not exist independently of consciousness then consciousness must be universal!

As with all beliefs, once we have truly experientially convinced ourselves that there is no proof what so ever to substantiate what we belief, we no longer do! Such a true deconstruction of a belief will leave us in an agnostic state, open to alternatives.

This is where we enter the spiritual aspect of Non-Duality, when we answer the invitation to investigate the nature of what we are, when we find that our beliefs have no substance in our own experience, when we end up and remain in a state of unknowing, only then will it be revealed to us that consciousness is not a concept, not an object, that it is timeless, infinite and universal. That it is one without a second, reality itself, the Absolute.

Copyright © 2019 Peter Friebel.